Reasons to Wear a Walking Boot


Many things can happen to our feet and legs, especially as we get older. We might trip coming off a step, and sprain an ankle, or something much worse: a broken leg or torn tendon. It doesn’t even have to be from an accident. As we age we develop muscle imbalances or core weaknesses that lead to nagging foot or leg pain.

Sometimes you can tough it out, through exercises or conditioning routines. At other times, though, the legs or feet just aren’t restoring themselves, and doctors might recommend that you spend time in a walking boot. When does a foot or leg problem cross the line into needing intervention from the walking boot? What are the reasons to consider wearing a walking boot, and how do they work, anyway?

The team at Scheck & Siress is here to help you decide whether a walking boot is right for you and get you what you need for your recovery. We put together a guide to explain the purpose and function of walking boots.

Reasons for Wearing a Walking Boot

Walking boots come in various forms. At their most basic level, think of walking boots as a special shoe that provides significant medical benefits. Doctors recommend you wear them as a way of speeding the healing process.  A walking boot protects the foot and ankle and is common when someone has broken their leg or foot, is struggling from shin splints or a severe sprain, or has suffered some other type of foot or leg injury. 

The goal of the walking boot is to add stability to your foot as you move. Depending on their size, the boot will extend over your ankle or up to your knee. You will secure it to your leg by fastening a series of three to five straps.

What is the Purpose of a Walking Boot?

Because we are a mobile species, and healing moves at its own pace, it’s not realistic to think we can wait out our recovery lying in bed or the couch. Life goes on. The purpose of the walking boot is to allow you to put weight on the injured foot safely. The walking boot holds the foot in place so that your injury can run its course, and you can continue to live life as before, though at a slower pace.

How Does Wearing a Walking Boot Feel?

Wearing a walking boot will initially feel awkward and usually involves an adjustment period. The awkwardness will fade as you get used to the boot. If you are wearing it in the summer, you may find it is hot to wear. It’s probably a good idea to wear the boot with a thick sock, which unfortunately will make it even warmer, but you don’t want the straps digging into your skin.

Be aware of surface conditions when walking with the boot. Some people find the boot to be slippery. Rainy or snowy surfaces could pose a hazard. Walking on grassy or muddy areas may also hinder your mobility slightly.

How Do You Put the Walking Boot On?

You want to be seated to put the boot on. Insert your heel as far back in the boot as you can go, Next, wrap the upper part of the boot around your foot and leg. Begin tightening at the toe level. Take care not to over-tighten. You should examine your foot regularly; if you have overtightened the boot, you might find your toes are red or swollen. Give your foot time to breathe.

Some boots provide air pressure to create the snug feeling that keeps your foot in place. If you have one of those, then fill the air chambers as instructed. Be careful not to overfill. When you remove the boot at night, make sure you let the air out of the boot first. If you feel you are struggling to get the walking boot to fit properly, do not hesitate to contact your doctor or the boot provider. For healing to succeed, you need the walking boot to fit appropriately.

Is a Walking Boot Better than a Cast?

Everyone is different, of course, but researchers have found that in some instances, walking boots are indeed preferred over plaster casts. A 2016 paper in the Asia Pacific Journal of Sports Medicine, Arthroscopy, Rehabilitation and Technology found that “short-leg” walking boots shortened recovery times for patients recovering from surgery for a broken ankle, compared to those who wore plaster casts. Researchers specifically cited the adjustable heel area, the ability to slip the boots on and off easily, and other benefits in their findings. Talk to your doctor about what’s best for you.

Do You Need Crutches with a Walking Boot?

The whole idea of the walking boot is to take excess weight off your injured foot so you can feel better. The legs are the ultimate shock absorbers, and you don’t appreciate that fact until you are injured.

Generally speaking, keeping weight off may well require you to use some type of assistive device even with a walking boot. But it doesn’t have to be crutches. Leaning on a walker or cane or using a wheelchair for longer periods where you might be on your feet may be the right thing for you. Every case is different, so make sure you discuss options with your doctor and follow their advice. You definitely do not want to be re-injured.

Get the Care You Deserve

Anatomical view of leg and feet bones

Image via Flickr from University of Liverpool Faculty of Health & Life Sciences

At Scheck & Siress, we improve and restore mobility to help people achieve their goals by providing the best in prosthetic and orthotic care. We offer a full line of prosthetics and orthotics in the Chicagoland area, including choices for the lower-extremity, upper extremity, and pediatric orthotics and prosthetics. We also offer a line of prosthetics for post-mastectomy care.

Since our founding in 1953, our practitioners, now more than 50 strong, have delivered quality patient care through a combination of expertise and dedication. We also extend our mission through education, training, and involvement in the profession and community, including a unique peer counseling service to provide a supportive community.  We have 18 convenient locations in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana.